It’s September, which (at least in my mind) means back to school time! Yes, I know most schools here in the US started weeks ago already. And I haven’t had a first day of school in September in about seven years (grad school was weird), but it is still my favorite time of the year. Now the weather just needs to catch up.
This year, I wanted to do a post to mark the start of the school year, and more importantly, the beginning of fall (almost). I was thinking about all of the books I was assigned to read in school, and I realized something interesting: the vast majority of books I was assigned, in all levels of schooling, were written by men. Now, there are some truly great books written by men (Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc.), but there are also some fantastic books written by women, and it’s a shame they’re not assigned more often. So today, I wanted to share some of my favorite books written by women that were assigned to me in school.
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. This was the start of my love for classic science fiction. It drew me in instantly, and I absolutely loved it. I still have a vivid memory of being curled up with a blanket in my apartment in Boston, listening to the rain, and devouring this book. (Assigned in college.)
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. It makes sense that the mother of science fiction (see above) was the progeny of another revolutionary woman: the mother of feminism. Both of these women were totally badass (read Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon if you want to find out more), and I think it’s safe to say Wollstonecraft changed my life. This should be required reading. I will say, I was assigned this a few times in school, but it wasn’t until grad school that I appreciated it fully. (Assigned in college & grad school.)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I have been assigned one book from each of the Brontë sisters at some point (Wuthering Heights by Emily, and Agnes Grey by Anne at the other two), but this is my favorite of the ones I was assigned. It’s such a great classic novel. If I had a list of classics everyone should read, this would be on it. (Assigned in high school.)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. This is a classic for a reason. It’s the book that introduced me to the idea that classics (and adult literature) could be fun. I think it was one of the first books I read for high school, and it made me excited about assigned reading, which is a big feat – I have a habit of avoiding all books someone tells me I have to read. (Assigned in high school.)
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. This book opened my mind to a lot of things, namely graphic novels and LGBT literature (I went to school before the current movement towards diverse literature, so I didn’t have that much exposure to it, unfortunately). It’s a great memoir and was so interesting to discuss in class. (Assigned in college.)
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’ve actually been assigned a few Austen books (I have a thing for Victorian literature, and took as many classes as I could), but this is easily my favorite. Mansfield Park was good, and I am not a fan of Emma. But P&P is excellent. I actually did a paper in grad school using A Vindication of the Rights of Woman to prove P&P was feminist. Not to brag, but I got an A. (Assigned in college.)
I wish I had been assigned more books by women that I had one, actually read, and two, enjoyed. While I did discover a lot of great literature and have some great teachers, I had to discover a lot of great female writers on my own. I am by no means against books written by men, but there should definitely be more of a balance. And I’m so glad I did read these books in school.
Do you have any books to add to this list? Are there any books written by women that you would assign as a teacher? Share them in the comments!